Athletics have been a part of human society ever since the first cave dweller challenged a rival to a spear-throwing contest. It’s almost impossible to imagine how different the world would be today without the tests of strength, speed, strategy, and skill collectively known as sports.
But that world is changing.
With the advent of computers, a new type of activity has taken hold of society: video games. Interactive video and software combined with input devices like keyboards, mice, and hand-held controllers are now fully mainstream. There are over 1.8 billion gamers in the world today, and the average age is 35. Fully 80% of households in the USA have a video game playing device. 56% of gamers are male, and 44% are female. This is not a niche. This is about as ubiquitous as you can get.
Recently, video game tournaments have grown past the local arcade and have become a movement of their own. Known as eSports, they are beating nearly all regular sports in players and viewers. One of the most popular games called League of Legends has over 100 million players.
The online global nature of eSports makes it very easy to spread, and with free streaming sites like Twitch, the number of viewers of eSports players and tournaments is growing rapidly. Estimates say that the audience for eSports will be larger than the NFL by 2020 with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake for tournament competitors.
Of course, most people today don’t consider eSports to be an actual physical sport. Sitting in a computer chair moving only your hands or fingers doesn’t look anything like basketball or soccer even if it does take a certain amount of dexterity and speed. The stereotypical image of a video game champion in most people’s minds is nothing like Lebron James.
Sadly, the more people that spend hours playing video games instead of sports will move our society closer to the dystopian Wall-E future of obesity and sloth. Real sports can’t compete with the exciting and rewarding worlds that eSports compete in. The physical world just has too many constraints.
My grandpa likes playing ping pong at the local senior activity center. Gamers want to use powerups, magical abilities, and mechanized strength while saving the universe from evil overlords.
No matter how good the hot chocolate is, the senior activity center can never compete.
So does this mean that physical sports are going to become extinct with eSports taking their place? No chance.
Introducing virtual reality.
Virtual reality allows you to enter fantasy worlds where physics don’t have to behave like the real world. No longer are you stuck looking at a 2D screen pressing W, A, S, and D on your computer to interact with the heroes. In VR, your body is the controller, and you are the hero! Your movements directly translate into game inputs that determine if you win or lose.
This amazing new technology makes it possible to play actual sports with an actual one-to-one correlation between your physical abilities and the game outcome… just like in physical sports.
Imagine bringing the strategy, speed, and mental intelligence of an eSport and mixing it with your full physical ability. A new breed of athlete will emerge combining the best of both worlds.
Room-scale devices like the HTC Vive have millimeter accuracy for movement and position which makes it basically as good as reality when it comes to translating your movement into realistic sports results like throwing a football, hitting a tennis ball, or catching a fly ball.
Today’s First vSports and Devices
Even in the early days of consumer VR, we are seeing experiences and hardware that show the potential. For example:
Racket Fury: Realistic ping pong physics.
Sparc: Brand new virtual sport.
Thrill of the Fight: Realistic and intense boxing experience.
Strivr: NFL and NCAA quarterback training.
Vive Tracker Baseball Bat: Translates to actual baseball physics.
Warehouse and Field Scale Virtual Reality Experiences: Brings the full-court press.
Manus VR Gloves: Full hand and finger tracking.
TPCast Wireless Headset: Free movement is possible.
The vSports Revolution is Coming Soon
We don’t have to limit video games to just keyboards and controllers. We also don’t have to limit sports to real-world environments and physics. In the very near future, they will merge.
We can’t wait.
Check out the related article Visions of VR’s Future: 7 Reasons VR Will Change Sports Forever for another visionary take on this inevitable merger.